Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. - USA TODAY Sports
Hey, guys! This a quick post-Signing Day recap where we cover the teams in the Big Ten, and we'll be bringing it to you Lindy's-style: with the numbers at their positions, an overview, a prospect who headlines the class, and a bottom line. Technically, Lindy's also includes a Sleeper for each class, but frankly I don't know enough about each program to gauge which recruit is underrated but probably awesome. (I have a tough enough time doing that when looking at Michigan's class.)
We'll start with the Legends Division. Enjoy!
ATH 3, DB 3, DT 2, LB 3, OL 2, QB 1, RB 3, TE 2, WR 3
Overview: Receiver was a key focus for OC Greg Davis going into this recruiting cycle, and the Hawkeyes took care of that by adding three, most notably JUCO Damond Powell, who put up monster stats at Snow (UT) Community College and should be able to contribute right away. With Iowa's history at the running back position, the Hawkeyes could always use more ballcarriers, and LeShun Daniels out of Warren, OH looks likes the prototypical Big Ten back at 5'11", 220 lbs. Davis is also excited about the quarterback he brought in, Nic Shimonek out of Corsicana, TX, who he hopes is a sleeper version of Colt McCoy. The only recruiting need that the Hawkeyes missed on was defensive end, where they just couldn't find any recruits with mutual interest.
Headliner: In a class that doesn't have many true stars, tight end Jon Wisnieski really stands out because he's a local kid out of Dowling High School in West Des Moines who the rest of class and fanbase can rally around. Iowa is the type of program that usually needs to depend on homegrown talent, and Wisnieski garnered a lot of local media buzz for choosing the Hawkeyes over Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas State, Ole Miss, and Purdue. He was Iowa's highest rated recruit on ESPN's recruiting rankings.
Bottom Line: The Hawkeyes' 2013 recruiting class didn't have quite the amount of pizzazz that fans may have hoped for 14 years into Kirk Ferentz's tenure, but they added a good amount of prospects in key areas. Ferentz's teams have always been known for depending on developed, experienced upperclassmen rather than freshmen phenoms. While most Hawkeye fans would like to see the program to develop a reload rather than rebuild mentality on par with the more elite teams in college football, Ferentz's strategy has brought him success at Iowa in the past, and he's not going anywhere.
ATH 2, DB 5, DE 1, DT 2, LB 2, OL 7, QB 1, RB 2, TE 2, WR 3
Overview: The Wolverines addressed their biggest need by bringing in seven(!) offensive linesmen in the class, most notably David Dawson out of Cass Tech and Patrick Kugler out of Wexler, PA. Hoke's staff also added a pair of elite defensive tackles in Maurice Hurst Jr. out of Westwood, MA and Henry Poggi out of Baltimore, MD, who they managed to hold onto despite a late push by Alabama. Michigan fans also have high hopes for defensive end Taco Charlton. OC Al Borges brought in Michigan's quarterback of the future, Shane Morris, out of Warren De La Salle. With the struggles that Michigan had at the running back position in 2012, it was critical that they land an elite running back, and they did just that by adding Derrick Green out of Richmond, VA. The only area of need that lacked star power was at wide receiver.
Headliner: Derrick Green. Hands down. When Michigan's running game produced numerous question marks along the offensive line and at the tailback position, and then they bring in the No. 1 running back in the country, the only choice for a headliner has to be Derrick Green. He was a standout at the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl and is talented enough to work his way into the rotation as a true freshman.
Bottom Line: For the second straight year, Michigan has hauled in a consensus top ten recruiting class filled with elite prospects, many of whom are ranked highest at their position. Brady Hoke and his staff are serious about winning the battle in the trenches, creating a power running attack behind a monster offensive line and a quick, ferocious defensive line built to stop the run. The Wolverines are adding key depth to every position--linebacker, cornerback, and safety all look good for years to come--but they're banking a lot of hope that the three wide receivers they brought in are underrated.
ATH 2, DB 2, DE 1, DT 3, K 1, LB 2, OL 1, QB 1, RB 2, TE 1, WR 2
Overview: The Spartans put together the absolute best class in the country and in no way regressed to the mean as Dantonio signed a grand total of three (that's right, three) prospects from the state of Michigan. One was 3-star Dennis Finley out of Cass Tech. Michigan State addressed their needs at running back with Gerald Holmes out of Flint, MI, and R.J. Shelton out of Beaver Dam, WI. At least one of those guys is probably going to see playing time because, thanks to the departures of Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper (as well as Edwin Baker a year ago), the backfield is significantly depleted and unproven with only sophomore Nick Hill having any legitimate game experience. The Spartans also took care of their kicking game by getting highly-rated kicker Michael Geiger from Toledo.
Headliner: Linebacker Jon Reschke is an in-state guy out of Brother Rice who will make many MSU fans proud for years to come as he looks to eventually become the leader of the defense and will push Max Bullough for playing time as early as this year.
Bottom Line: If MSU fans thought the performance of the program on its way to 7-6 in 2012 was disappointing, it must have been rough to watch the 2013 recruiting cycle unfold. A year ago the Spartans were competing for back-to-back Big Ten championships and beating Michigan on a regular basis. Now they've fallen behind the traditional powers of the conference and, predictably, have had to take what they can get. However, on the plus side, the Spartans have always managed to find a few gems in their classes.
ATH 1, DB 2, DE 2, DT 2, K 1, LB 4, OL 1, QB 1, RB 1, TE 1, WR 2
Overview: Jerry Kill and his staff tried to address their needs as best they could and, much like the class of 2011 and 2012, they added bodies across the board. The linebacker corps was a particular weakness of the Gopher defense in 2012, and Kill looked to remedy that by taking four linebackers. Kill dipped into Florida again to get WR Eric Carter and LB Rayfield Dixon. The most significant issue going into the 2012 season was the lack of depth at running back, but Donnell Kirkwood's emergence as a bona-fide Big Ten back alleviated many of the concerns. Minnesota probably would have liked to take one more ball carrier in the class of 2013 for good measure, but most fans are quite content that the staff landed Chelsea, MI running back Berkley Edwards.
Headliner: Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan Wolverine Braylon Edwards, caused much joy among Gopher fans when he committed to Minnesota over UC-Berkeley(!). The scatback out of Chelsea, MI brings the kind of elite speed that Jerry Kill craves, but his lack of elite size (5'9", 185 lbs.) was reportedly what kept him from getting more offers, especially from the one he wanted--Michigan.
Bottom Line: Like many fans of Big Ten teams other than Michigan or Ohio State, Minnesota fans would like to see their staff compete with the conference's elite and land bigger, flashier prospects sooner rather than later. However, Kill's classes in 2011 and 2012 (and, indeed, in 2013) are on par with the classes he hauled in at Northern Illinois, which means that Kill is putting together Gopher squads that should be perennial bowl teams for years. While that might not be enough for the most ambitious Gopher fans, it should give Kill time to establish his tenure and bring stability to the program.
ATH 3, DB 1, DE 2, DT 2, LB 3, OL 6, QB 1, RB 2, WR 1
Overview: In lieu of the unexpected transfers from Braylon Heard and Aaron Green--both highly rated running backs in previous classes--Nebraska added Terrell Newby out of West Hills, CA and Adam Taylor out of Katy, TX. They also took a few athletes which they expect to contribute at either wide receiver or safety, the most notable of which is Drake Martinez, the younger brother of current Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez. Although they had hoped for commitments from JUCO players earlier in the process, Nebraska addressed their needs on both offensive and defensive lines with eleventh hour signees Dimayra Mixon and Dwayne Johnson.
Headliner: Dual-threat quarterback Johnny Stanton out of Rancho Santa Margarita, CA looks like the second coming of Taylor Martinez, so don't expect to see Bo Pelini's spread-option leave anytime soon. Stanton was one of the most heralded recruits in the class and competed alongside the best high school quarterbacks in the nation at the Elite 11 camp, where he earned a spot on the final list.
Bottom Line: While Michigan and Brady Hoke may be employing a strategy where they get recruits to commit early, the staff at Nebraska seems to be employing a strategy where they wait until the month before Signing Day to get most of their class together. The Cornhuskers went into January with 13 commitments taken over the previous 11 months. They got the last 12 of 25 total in the final 30 days. That may be just how Pelini likes to operate, but it certainly drives the fans crazy as they enter the final month afraid they'll sign a small class without filling all their needs.
ATH 4, DB 1, DE 1, K 1, LB 2, OL 4, QB 1, RB 3, TE 1, WR 1
Overview: Pat Fitzgerald pulled in a solid haul for the 2013 class and stayed above the bottom of the Big Ten. Offensive line is always a concern at Northwetsern, and Fitzgerald hopes that the four O-Linemen he signed provide stability for the future. Similarly, the Wildcats attempted to address their concerns on defense, particularly at safety and linebacker. They shored up the linebacker position by signing two prospects--Anthony Walker Jr. out of Opa Locka, FL, and Brett Walsh out of Monrovia, CA--but safety remains a glaring concern. It may be alarming that the Wildcats only took one defensive back in the class, but they're hoping some of the many athletes, like Godwin Igwebuike out of Pickerington, OH and Kyle Queiro out of Oradell, NJ, can help out at safety.
Headliner: Quarterback Matt Alviti is the highest rated recruit in Northwestern's 2013 class and was featured as one of the starting quarterbacks in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, and he was also named the bowl's MVP. Alviti is the kind of dual-threat quarterback that Fitzgerald likes to build his spread offense around and reminds many Wildcat fans of Dan Persa.
Bottom Line: Northwestern may be the Big Ten's best team on the rise and for good reason. Pat Fitzgerald's efforts on the recruiting trail reflect his efforts on the field, and even he has to admit that he likes the recruiting sites who rank his class higher in the conference than usual. The Wildcats were able to get a quarterback that fits the offense, a significant amount of running back depth, more bodies along the offensive line, and even a place kicker. That should solidify Fitzgerald's offensive production for the next few years, but in 2014 he'll have to turn his attention to the defensive line, which still needs more depth and talent.